When you have completed your treatment and your doctor says everything looks good, you will likely feel joyful, thankful and optimistic about the future. As time goes on, however, you could start to experience undesirable emotions.
These feelings may be unexpected and confusing, but rest assured that they are completely normal. You have been through a great deal and your life has changed forever in some significant ways. Learning about why you may have these emotions and how to deal with them in a positive and proactive manner can help you come out on top like the brave overcomer that you are.
Even if you received a clean bill of health, you may have the nagging worry that the cancer will come back. Follow-up appointments and good reports can help alleviate this fear, but it is likely to remain in the back of your mind.
While nobody can control their own health completely, you can take steps to be as healthy as possible. Focus on your wellness rather than your fear. This could mean exercising, eating better, meditating or even alternative medicine such as acupuncture.
Between the shock of your initial diagnosis and the grueling treatments, you did everything possible to hold yourself together for the sake of your loved ones and your own sanity. Once those treatments are done and you start to relax, the anxious feelings you have ignored could come spilling out.
Several activities can help you counter anxiety, such as regular exercise, deep breathing, yoga and adequate sleep. Your primary care provider or a licensed counselor can help if you are struggling with anxiety, as well.
Although it can occur at any point following a cancer diagnosis, post-treatment depression might catch you off guard. Exhaustion, hormonal changes and even medications can all be contributing factors, so it is important to seek medical assistance to determine the cause. If a certain medication is the root cause, for example, your doctor may be able to prescribe something different.
Therapy with or without antidepressants could help you feel like yourself again. Other complementary techniques that can boost your mood include practices such as journaling, guided imagery and massage therapy.
If you experience this emotion following your treatment, you might also feel guilt. However, you have every right to feel angry. Cancer put your life at risk. It caused you to endure time-consuming treatments with miserable side effects. It permanently altered your life and your perspective.
The key is finding healthy, productive ways to deal with your anger. Talk about your feelings to a trusted family member, friend or counselor. Scream into a pillow or in the shower. Do something physical to vent your frustrations, like chopping wood or hitting balls in a batting cage. Let it out.
When there are no more appointments for chemo or radiation and your surgery is a thing of the past, your family and friends –grateful that you made it through– might want to put it all behind them and move on with life. This may not be so easy for you, which can leave you feeling isolated and even deserted.
Talk to your family and friends about your feelings. Let them know what you need from them. You can also talk to a therapist, join a support group or seek out a friendship with someone who has been (or currently is living) right where you are. Remember, you are not in this alone and there is neither shame nor weakness in reaching out for help.